Race-fix­ing trio fined

The Cobram Courier - - NEWS - By Myles Peter­son

Three peo­ple, in­clud­ing high­pro­file trainer-driver Nathan Jack, have been fined a to­tal of $40 000 over a race-fix­ing in­ci­dent at Co­bram in 2015.

Jack, Mark Pitt and Lisa Bart­ley have been warned off all Vic­to­rian race­tracks, had their har­ness racing li­cences sus­pended and no horse owned or trained by them is al­lowed to trial or race.

The trio was found guilty of con­duct that cor­rupted a betting out­come over the run­ning of a har­ness race.

In Wodonga Mag­is­trates’ Court, Mag­is­trate John Mur­phy found Shep­par­ton’s Jack, Pitt and Bart­ley all guilty of var­i­ous charges re­lat­ing to the race.

Jack and Pitt were con­victed and fined $20 000 and $15 000, re­spec­tively, while Bart­ley was fined $5000 with no con­vic­tion recorded.

The of­fences re­lated to a har­ness race at Co­bram on Mon­day, June 22, 2015, won by the horse Air­bournemagic.

At one stage, Air­bournemagic was in betting mar­kets at odds of 35-1.

A sus­pi­cious betting plunge alerted au­thor­i­ties to the cor­rupt con­duct, the court heard.

Odds on Air­bournemagic dropped as low as $4.80 fol­low­ing the plunge.

The court heard Bart­ley re­ceived $2274.24 on a bet of $65, all the money she had left in her bank ac­count, ac­cord­ing to her bar­ris­ter Rowan Lawrence.

More than $40 000 was lost by var­i­ous betting agen­cies, much of it un­re­cov­er­able.

Mr Mur­phy cited nu­mer­ous acts con­ducted by the trio in the lead-up to Air­bournemagic win­ning the race.

Bart­ley and Jack con­spired to train the horse be­fore the race, mov­ing it from Bart­ley’s fa­ther’s sta­ble, which had a lesser rep­u­ta­tion in the in­dus­try, while hid­ing the new train­ing pro­gram from Har­ness Racing Vic­to­ria.

Emails be­tween the coac­cused clearly demon­strated the de­cep­tion, ac­cord­ing to Mr Mur­phy.

‘‘Har­ness Racing Vic­to­ria was never no­ti­fied as re­quired by a sta­ble re­turn as to the move­ment of the horse,’’ the mag­is­trate noted in his con­vic­tion state­ment.

‘‘For all in­tents and pur­poses, this was to mis­lead any­one in­volved in the in­dus­try, in­clud­ing pun­ters, that the horse was still lo­cated at David Bart­ley’s sta­bles and trained by him.’’

Text mes­sages be­tween Jack and Bart­ley and Pitt and Bart­ley fur­ther demon­strated a con­spir­acy to fix the race and place bets at long odds.

‘‘Keep (Air­bournemagic) quiet and we all might get some­thing I was happy with him today (sic),’’ Jack texted.

‘‘I’m not telling any­one,’’ Bart­ley replied.

‘‘Good girl, if any­one asks he is use­less,’’ Jack con­tin­ued.

Later, Pitt and Bart­ley dis­cussed a plunge in the odds as a re­sult of bets placed.

‘‘(Air­bournemagic) is $15 now,’’ Pitt texted.

On the day of the race, Jack and Pitt con­spired to al­low Air­bournemagic to win the race, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments re­leased by the court.

Jack, an ex­pe­ri­enced and tal­ented driver, drove a dif­fer­ent horse, Tooram Lad, to the front of the race and al­lowed Pitt, who was driv­ing Air­bournemagic, to sit in his slip­stream.

‘‘I am fur­ther sat­is­fied that Jack, by his ac­tions in the race it­self, in­clud­ing con­tin­u­ally look­ing over his shoul­der, is guilty of all charges,’’ Mr Mur­phy said.

At a crit­i­cal mo­ment, Jack al­lowed Pitt and Air­bournemagic to over­take, cross­ing the fin­ish line first.

The plan al­most came un­stuck with a third driver com­ing up on the out­side and tak­ing the race to a photo fin­ish.

Bar­ris­ters rep­re­sent­ing Jack, Pitt and Bart­ley ar­gued against jail sen­tences, stat­ing all three lived for the racing in­dus­try and that an­tic­i­pated lengthy sus­pen­sions im­posed by Har­ness Racing Vic­to­ria fol­low­ing the findings of guilty would destroy their ca­reers and liveli­hoods.

Mr Mur­phy said he would take a range of fac­tors into ac­count, in­clud­ing the rel­a­tive youth of the two youngest of­fend­ers, Pitt and Bart­ley, but could not avoid im­pos­ing large fines and con­vic­tions for the more se­ri­ous of­fences.

Con­victed: Nathan Jack and Mark Pitt out­side court.

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